Will Never Forget the Noodle family from Phnom Penh, Thailand

Let me tell you a short story set in Phnom Penh about the most wonderful family i've met in my travels abroad. They are called the Noodle Family. My friends coined their name because they are the family that serves right in front of you fresh, hot and really tasty noodles. They are found in the big street leading to the ghetto district in the lake side near the other end of the mosque. I will ask for the directions again. If in case you're in Phnom Penh, do visit them. I highly recommend it.

Almost everyday and night, this is the place we go to for cheap but tasty food. Adam introduced me to this place. We would order noodles, mine's the egg fried noodles which is really really good and a can of anchor beer for less than $1. As i see them, i couldn't help but wonder what this particular family has on me. Whenever i'm here, i feel like my my mom's cooking me something and my dad's talking to me while my brother and sisters are playing around. Everyone works; the dad cooks, the mom with the girls chop those vegetables and meat, the older brother grabs softdrinks and beer from the other store, the little boy serving me the spoon and fork. And whenever they hand me out something or looks at me, they're always smiling.

Since July of this year, i always think about them. I wonder how they've been. I wish they celebrated the holidays in good spirit. I hope their mini eatery and restaurant will flourish into a full blown restaurant. They are the sweetest pictures of Khmer people. I hope on my next visit to Phnom Penh that they are still where they are because i will hang out with them for sure. I wanted to take a photo of each and every one of them.

I wanted to share this story to all of you who're looking for magic in Phnom Penh. In, let's say fastpaced city as Phnom Penh with all the dirt, you can still find a pure heart in one of the walkways. This is the only photo i took in one of the afternoons strolling, i was looking for a good place to eat. I always wind up dining here. Just lovely.

How to Get to Koh Phangan, Thailand for the Full Moon Party!

To start with, i lost a whole lot of entry on this so i am manually repeating everything. Damn. 

I got inspired to create a 101 on how to get to the Full Moon Party. A fellow traveler was asking me some information about it, so i thought it might be for the best to share it here in length. I've been there ages ago, last November of 2008. My bragging rights would be the only Filipino attendee at that time. I think. 

I am pretty sure you've heard about it from your friends, peers, family, heck even a random person you've met in a bar whose been to Thailand. Undoubtedly, the most popular party and the biggest beach party in the world is called Haad Rin's Home of the Original Full Moon Party.

Held once every month of the year, the Full Moon Party attracts thousands upon thousands of weary souls from around the world, eagerly needing a good kick of hedonistic pleasure. Whether be it the love of good electronic dance music or the love of a crowd that never leaves until sunrise, it is always a sure fire hit to every traveler to Thailand.

What started as a party for a couple of hippies who were then leaving the island back in the days, the event grew bigger and bigger. Some say getting more and more commercialized as years pass by. Honestly, it's the best party I've been to anywhere. But be reminded, the best has its worst. I will talk about that later on.


Full Moon Party is located in the beautiful tropical southern island of Koh Phangan in the province of Surrathani. Home to numerous waterfalls, rivers, deserted beaches and of course, endless bucket toting party animals roaming at the beach. At Haad Rin as they say, is where the party is at. The whole stretch of the beach from north to south is littered with neon lights, fuck bucket signs and loud amp music to suit everyone's taste for music. Just hang around anywhere you like.

But first how to get there?

There are heaps of ways to get there depends mostly on your budget, or the length of time you have to travel. From the capital city of Bangkok, I am pretty sure there are so many travel agencies you can go to ask about going here.

Say the magic words...

Koh Pha Ngan Full Moon Party.

For sure, that lovely Thai concierge already knows where you're heading. She will give you several options on how to get there.

If you have the money and want to be at the Haad Rin beach in the next five hours. Book a plane bound for Koh Samui, the beautiful island off the coast of Koh Pha Ngan, roughly less than an hour via speed boat. Charter a yacht and head there in style.

The most popular and apparently the faster route overland is via bus and boat package. The bus is a popular mode of transportation around Thailand, and most of the time, overcrowded. I really don't like long haul bus rides. It's cramped with too many people, the A/C is always on the maximum level, you cannot stretch your muscles, the seats may be a little too uncomfortable, worse if it doesn't recline. 

Here's my recommendation:
I traveled via train for the sole reason that i like to move a bit in the journey - where i can walk, where the space is bigger, plus it's almost always on time. I've tried the buses and it's the easiest to travel around but i am not really a fan. I highly recommend using the trains as mode of transportation because they're not overpriced. Also, it is very comfortable. I was actually very surprised then. I thought it would be a hassle, but i was sleeping the whole time.

Book a train package going to Koh Pha Ngan Haad Rin Beach Full Moon Party. 
Roughly, for about less than 1,500 baht, you get yourself a package that includes an overnight sleeper train, a bus, a ferry, a taxi and you're in the heart of the party.

Here's a scan of my ticket from Suratthani to Bangkok. It's probably the same ticket you will have, just the other way around. Last November 2008, i came from Krabi onwards Surat thani.

From what i know, there are about two trips going to Surrathani; gateway to the Full Moon Party. One departs around 8AM and the other at 7:30PM. You don't want to waste your day on the train right? Go for the night train, it doesn't only save you a night of accommodation, you will get to the ferry very early in the morning so you can maximize your time at the beach. 

Book a second class sleeper train, you get a bunk bed - choose the lower bunk, a good air conditioning system, and a night lamp just so you can catch up on your reading. Provide yourself with food as i am not particularly sure if you can buy snacks on the train. 

There's a communal toilet and sink so you can do your thing. For smokers like me, in between cars of the train, there's a place there where windows/doors can be opened so you can smell fresh breeze and smoke. The journey takes about 10-12 hours. It was seriously very comfortable.

You will most definitely arrive safely at the Surrathani train station. From here, there are a couple of convenience stores, food stalls where you can buy snacks, drinks before you head to the ferry port. The station isn't clean, but you can definitely see the change of pace of Thai culture. The people in the south are less manic than in capital city. You will need to ride an hour long bus ride towards the ferry. Don't worry! The view is spectacular. This is already paid for if you book the package. 

The boat ride is also surprisingly comfortable. It's free seating, so feel free to choose where you want to spend the rest of the hours waiting for the boat to dock to Koh Phangan. If you want to doze off, get the ones near a wall. If you want a great view, choose those in front. It's the same if you want a seat near the toilet. You may also choose the open air section at the back where a couple of seats are lined up. The air is fresh, and the view is  super amazing. 

One can freely roam around the deck. Just make sure your bags are carefully watched out. The journey takes about 4-5 hours depending on the waves. There's a little nook where refreshments and light snacks are sold. The prices are reasonable. But be prepared to swing left to right if the waves are huge. But the whole ride is pretty much safe.

You will know you're near Koh Phangan when you see the lovely green mountains to your right, the island of Koh Samui.

You will arrive in Thongsala Pier in Koh Phangan, where you'll ride a jeep to head to Haad Rin Beach. On the way there, you will pass by cliffs and numerous guesthouses and restaurants. The driver can drop you off wherever your staying. In my case, i was headed for the eye of the party. A few stops here and there, i was dropped off in a narrow road leading towards the beach of Haad Rin. Home of the Full Moon Party.

Going back will be the same route. I scanned the itinerary of my trip from Koh Pha Ngan Haad Rin Beach to Bangkok. As see above photo.

My Travel Buddies from Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, Philippines

A lot of people wonder how a solo traveler spends his day while on the road. 

When i was in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, i found myself in the company of new found friends. They've made me realize how honest and simple happiness is for a child, and how i have grown up to have a more complicated perception of what joy is. 

Spending an afternoon with these kiddos didn't make me want to go back to being a child. I am proud of the 29 years i have lived. More so, i'm looking forward to living 80 more years. But what struck me the most is that for the first time in a while, i smiled not for myself but for them.

Microtel by Wyndham: Nueva Ecija's Best Luxury Hotel

STORY: There’s something about Cabanatuan City that never fails to make me feel excited. For the usual tourist, the city isn’t as adventure packed as the other cities in the south like Surigao City or Tagbilaran City. But Luzon, especially Cabanatuan City, is famed for its rich history. To give more flavour to my trips, when I was invited by Microtel by Wyndham to stay at their hotel in Cabanatuan City, I said yes right away.

A year ago, I was roaming around the city and I found it rather interesting. The province of Nueva Ecija is huge, and travelling around takes a while. So, finding a place to crash in would have to have as many checks on the list as possible. Gladly, spending a weekend at Microtel by Wyndham, proved to be such a delight.

I arrived quite late in the afternoon, but was immediately picked up by the staff on the roadside in the middle of the city. You can avail of this service, just make sure you confirm with the hotel personnel about your arrival. As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I already felt assured that I had the best decision to stay here. I was escorted to my room by the manager, and met with my friends.

The room is huge, and true to Microtel’s taste, it’s also very comfortable. The large windows gave me a glimpse of the huge pool by the garden. The executive room has two king size beds, with one that I enjoyed for myself. I rarely give thumps up for the rooms, but because it has everything I need, I had to say yes. The LCD TV added comfort before I sleep as I watch the news and old movie. The lighting was also nice because it gave a relaxing mood for an evening night cap. I slept like a baby for two nights, and enjoyed quick naps in the morning. It was so good of an experience.

The spacious lounge was also the perfect place to have a good talk. I was immediately surprised that the interior design is spot on, and floor planning is excellent. Unlike in other hotels, at Microtel by Wyndham in Cabanatuan City, everything you need is always within reach. And the helpful staff and concierge, makes you feel so. From complimentary water to newspaper and 24-hour television set, the lounge would be a good place to plan your daily outing.

The restaurant just across the hotel entrance was our breakfast place. With generous serving of Filipino cuisine, the buffet table was packed with local favourites that will surely make you feel full all morning. The kind staff at the restaurant, rather young, deserves a props, for efficiently serving guests with all requests.

Even at the wee hours of the morning, the security guards were manning the place round the clock. This made me feel secure and relaxed, especially since Microtel by Wyndham’s location in Cabanatuan City is a little secluded from the hustle and bustle of the main city proper.

The lovely manager of the hotel even managed to give us a 2 day tour of the city to help familiarize ourselves with the sights and sounds of Cabanatuan City. After endlessly scouring awesome dining places and touring historical sites, I was definitely impressed by the kind dedication of the manager to ensure that we get to see as many places around the city as possible.

The Aquino-Diokno Memorial in Fort Magsaysay is a must visit for history buffs. I was able to relieve the moments when Ninoy Aquino and Pepe Diokno were imprisoned during the Marcose regime. The short documentary i saw made the experience whole with snippets from political leaders and annotations from family members detailing the years the two heroes experienced inside the cell.

I was able to explore the Cabanatuan Americal Memorial a year ago on my first visit. Now, i still had the opportunity to visit this quiet memorial. It's so funny that travelers often look for adventure, yet, they've totally forgotten the unsung heroes of yesteryear - whether Filipino or American. By far, still my most favorite tourist spot in the province. 

In the hot and dusty compound of Fort Magsaysay lies Pahingahan Dam which is a serene and calming respite for soldiers, and a good place to unwind and relax for tourists. I bet afternoons are spectacular here. Don't you think?

In the neighboring city of Gapan lies the Parish of the Three Kings, commonly known as Gapan Church. Built in the 1800 by Augustinian Friars, this place is the largest and oldest church in the whole province of Nueva Ecija, and arguably one of the most beautiful in the whole of Luzon. 

Outside Gapan Church, the ancestral houses are a cultural heritage for the locals. Suddenly, you will be turned back in time with ornate decorations and imposing structures built hundreds of years ago. As i walk around here, i realized how the government has successfully preserved the province's greatest treasure - its past.

Minalungao National Park found in General Tinio is one of the natural sights foreign and local tourists must see in the province. An hour away from the capital city, this favorite place is popular with locals for the fresh water streaming down Minalungao, and the spectacular rock formations forming the border in the deep gorge. Occasional sightings of quiet fisher folks and loud videoke machines, included. 

And coming back to the hotel, after a day of sight-seeing, feels like coming back to a happy place. Where again, I can just relax and chat with my favoured friends, over anything nice and light. And all of these won’t be possible without Microtel by Wyndham’s effort to help ensure guests receive the treatment they deserve. Without a doubt, Microtel by Wyndham is the best hotel, and TripAdvisor’s #1 pick in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija.

Microtel by Wyndham Cabanatuan
Address: Sta. Arcadia, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija 3100
Phone Number: +63 (44) 958-7777 / +63 (927) 804-2929
E-mail Address: sales@microtel.ph / reservations@microtel.ph
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MicrotelPhilippines

Travel Diary: The Road Experience from Bontoc to Sagada, Philippines

I remember the fun times i had while riding the Ohayami bus bound for Banaue. The trip started at 10PM at Fajardo St. Cor. Lacson. Cost is about P450. There were 2 stops: one in San Miguel, Bulacan, then somewhere in Nueva Vizcaya. I arrived safe but no sleep at around 7AM in Banaue. Had a quick breakfast at People's Lodge. Food was so-so but the view was amazing. 

The terraces were simply outstanding, and there's a river down below from the terrace which made the setting even more beautiful. 

I noticed that local guides in Banaue are more aggressive, and aren't particularly a fan of Sagada. I wonder why. For about P300, we went on a tour around the different view points of the terraces. One is the main viewpoint, then there's the side view point, and one wherein you are up close, and the best one is where you can actually walk along the path ways.

There were the traditional Igorot tribes people dressed to kill. Had a photo op with them and they say "wacky" in one of the stills. Weird. I paid P100 for each lady as donation. There were 3 of them. Soon after, I went back to the terminal and waited for the multi-cab to be filled up before leaving for Bontoc. There were't that much people traveling as it's still a weekday. The ride was scary but the view is out of this world. It shook down the amazing view i saw from Vientianne to Vang Vieng, without a doubt. The driver also taught us how eat "nga-nga", to keep men up and not so sleepy during the winding drive. 

He is a really good driver, as he managed to drive us safe and sound after those seemingly infinite sharp curves. Interesting to note that people from Bontoc look far more fair skinned than those living in nearby provinces, but very Filipino similar to the people in Southern Vietnam and Laos. 

From Bontoc, I needed to get money but the ATM was a bit wonky so it took us a while to get cash. Then, it was waiting game for us to ride the multi-cab again, this time headed for Sagada. It was 12NN, and i initially wanted to ride top load but chickened out, good to note though, as the ride was the scariest ride of my life. 

After less than an hour, i arrived in Sagada and looked for a a guest house Stayed at Sagada Guest House and paid for 2 nights, for P1800, for 3 pax. First meal was at St Joseph's and ate breakfast which was "daing" or dried fish with grilled eggplant. As a side order, i ordered vegetable mushroom fried rice. It was really delicious.

I walked around town the rest of the afternoon, visiting Sagada Weaving where i bought  a duffel bag, keychains and maps, Then, it was time to check out St. Mary's Church and found one of the most relaxing places on earth at the nearby park. 

Then, it was time to visit the Guyam Museum. I rushed to leave when i found out out that photo aren't allowed. Why? Surprise trip was to Lake Dayum as sunset is suppose to be awesome there. After 20 minutes of navigating the rugged terrain, we arrived on top of the hill. As of the moment, it's closed due to insurgencies happening between soldiers and New Peoples Army. Was suppose to do pottery but that one is already closed.

During dinner, I ate at Log Cabin and found the food not really nice but the vibe is alright. Local crew from GMA was there as they were suppose to shoot footage for the Sumaging Accident. After dinner, I went back to the guesthouse to drink Pineapple Bugnay Rice Wine. 

I woke up early next day and at 4:30AM, went to Kiltepan viewing deck to see sunrise. Awesome time there, and was able to test my Black Diamond head lamp. Met new friends Leo and and Kaki who've been smoking dope since they arrived. 

Later that morning, i went back to the town to eat breakfast at the Saturday early morning market. Paid for an awful "goto" or rice porridge. I have been seriously trying to avoid eating chicken because of the Pinikpikan method here. You see, Pinikpikan is a cooking  method done by locals wherein they try to slap the chicken with sharp heavy  objects while still alive. Done numerous times before it dies, the blood clot starts to form. As they say, the tastier it gets. 

After taking photos at the cemetery and shouting as loud as i can at the echo valley, I went back to a different route beside the school football field, passing by a pathway that leads to town grounds. 

I shopped for more souvenirs, and went to eat egg sandwich and banana shake at Strawberry Shake. Ironically, strawberry's aren't available as it's not in season. Went back to the hotel to sleep again, and I didn't eat dinner anymore as i was still full. I ordered Beer at Kimchi where people were smoking ganja while Bob Marley hits were playing. Such a cliche. I went back to the guesthouse and bought 1 bottle of Emperador Brandy and Coke which i finished almost 3/4 by myself. Texted Ben to drop by to drink up but he was intoxicated and profoundly said it was only for washing. Drank with the rest of the crew at the guesthouse instead. I was  then invited to go with peeps at the hotel to go to a funeral service and drink some more but I need to wake up early the next day as i was leaving for Banaue already. Sadly, i had to decline.

I slept late, woke up late, too. Had brunch at St. Joseph again and tried "longganisa" or Chinese sausage, and the banana pancakes which was top notch. I really love that restaurant. Anyway, it was the same route going back to Bontoc. But I was really wary of the weather so it's best for me to leave as early as possible. 

I arrived in Banaue at around 3PM. I went straight to the tourism office to inquire where to go. First stop was the Banaue Museum which was filled up with stuff Otley Beyer collected from his travels. His youngest daughter still lives there and continues weaving but she left already. I then went straight to Pine View which was 30 minutes away from town. Stayed there for a while with the magnificent view of the forest, jungle clad pine trees and the peak of the mountain. Ate noodles and a couple of bottles of soft drinks, as no food was served. On the way back to town, had a last shopping spree outside main viewpoint and bought trinkets for home. Last meal was at People's Lodge for one last look of the terraces. It was really gorgeous, with the sunset. 

I rushed on the way back to the terminal for the bus bound for Manila as it was leaving at 7PM. It was less than 9 hours going back, and the Ohayami Drivers are really the best I've ever ridden with. Florida Bus drivers should be reprimanded for cutting us on sharp curves, nearby Dalton Pass.